Mother’s Day- Inspire the Woman, Impact the World

I love Mother’s Day for reminding myself and others to reflect on the powerful and supportive mothers and mother figures in our lives. For my mom, that was done through bridging our Minneapolis-Milwaukee gap with a phone call this morning, and a card en route (and taking its sweet time if I may say). But this year, that’s not all this holiday means to me.

While my mom will always be the Queen of my Mother’s Day, today, I was also reminded of the powerful and supportive female-driven communities I am a part of and have access to. For me, the last week was like a drum roll to Mother’s Day.

inspireSunday afternoon brought me back to my sorority chapter house for our monthly Executive Council meeting, on which I serve as the Philanthropy Advisor. While the meetings aren’t known for their brevity; for me, the time flies. I become consumed by the energy in the room and the vibrant conversation– the main topics and the side conversations I can’t help but start.

This time, I was most struck by the impact the chapter women have on our community. There are collegiate women serving the country through National Guard, they are in the marching band, orienting new students as welcome week leaders, and running student groups across campus. While it’s no longer our key phrase/slogan, I was reminded of the words, “Inspire the Woman. Impact the World.” I love this phrase, this mission statement for not being an if; then. It’s absolute. It’s not a goal, it’s a reality in this very moment.

The next night, the External Affairs team at Comcast offered me a seat at the Girl Scouts: Women of Distinction dinner and benefit. Once there, my guilt set in as I realized the breadth of this organization; and while I was able to rise under the preset of “once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout,” I knew elementary-Sarah didn’t even skim the surface of the opportunities available.girl scouts

I heard similar values I associate with my sorority being echoed by Girl Scouts ages 16 to 70. GIRL now stands for Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader. I can only imagine how my outlook, experiences, and priorities would have shifted if those were elementary-Sarah’s guiding values. If that was how I described myself, and even more so, if that was how I described the girls around me.

Girl Scout CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, shared her own story of refusing to choose between earning the baking and science badge, and pursued them both. Despite being told by a college counselor, “Girls like you don’t go to college,” she went on to be one of the first Hispanic female rocket scientists.

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Thursday, I was invited to fill in for a coworker at the YWCA luncheon, and didn’t even check my calendar before accepting. By attending, I was able to sit at a table of driven Comcast women and listen to speakers from all different walks of life speak to the impact YWCA has had on them. ywca1.jpg

After Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” perfectly welcomed her to the stage, Kim Nelson, former Vice President at General Mills, shared this powerful sentiment with us,

“My hope for my daughters, for all of you, and for myself is that each of us wake up everyday and live as women of power. Confident, courageous, and intent on empowering ourselves and others to change the world for better.”

medal1.jpgThe week ended with two sponsored events of Jessie Diggins, the Team USA Gold Medalist Cross Country Skiier. Even though I was taking my self-proclaimed job of photographer and videographer very seriously, I couldn’t help being in awe of the number of girls cross country ski teams that came in, together, to meet their idol and inspiration.

They were poised, and prepared with great questions of how Jessie reaches new goals. They sought advice and soaked in every word she gave them. These girls struck me as the type to describe themselves and each others as go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders.

I saw first hand, they’ve been inspired. They will impact the world.

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The Imposter Syndrome

Walking into a symposium on youth education for my leadership class, which begun the half hour before, I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t in the right place.

Surrounded by faculty, cameras relaying the presentation online, and very few familiar faces, I went over to registration and confirmed roughly seven times that I was in fact at the right event. For my Leadership Minor, I will start volunteering in an elementary school next week with first-third graders after school for an Everyday Leaders program (heartwarming). I’m not one to be unprepared, but with no experience working with kids, growing up with younger siblings, or knowledge of youth studies, it’s hard to not feel like an odd one out.

However, it’s been humbling being out of my comfort zone, as I am constantly learning from others in class who have profound experience and passion for working with children, and can be great resources for me.tina fey More and more, I have heard this topic of faking it or the “imposter syndrome” coming up.

Whether it’s going to a new department, giving a presentation on a whim, or attending a new exercise class, I think everyone has had an experience of pretending to belong. Throughout this amazing presentation on the current education system, I realized the multitude of just how many people are faking it.

Discussing the struggles encountered by students who have English as a second language, or  those with responsibilities like siblings and household bills, and so many others, how are these students supposed to confidently be themselves when they play so many roles? If they can’t confidently speak the language of the course or see school as the most pressing responsibility, can you blame them for feeling lost or inadequate?

One of my greatest takeaways, was the idea that the current education system and workforce doesn’t often recognize the knowledge that is gained through these experiences. Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz said, “We focus so much on the stories, we forget about the skills that come along with them.” I think a culture of “faking it” is perpetuated, because we don’t spend enough time celebrating the skills and knowledge we see in others and in ourselves.

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Claire and “Grams,” Winter 2011.

This reminds me of my friend Claire, whose personal statement I reviewed this morning. I was admiring her passion for her major and how much she has gotten out of her life experiences as she advances towards a counseling career in behavioral disorders and substance abuse. Claire has been a caretaker for her ill grandmother, been a productive presence in the face of addiction, loss, and despair. I am amazed by the compassion, patience and dedication she has to others and her ability to restore hope and motivation.

When it comes to life experiences, you aren’t able to clock out and leave it behind, you can’t pass too big of a project off to a manager, you do it because you have to. Many times, the experiences that define us most and make us unique, aren’t the ones that are backed by a college degree or company logo, something Claire epitomizes.

Imagine how much more we would learn, how many more ideas would be brought to the table, and how many more people would feel welcome sharing their ideas, if we gave the same value to these life experiences. I think if we recognized the gifts, talents, and skills each and every person around us possesses, they would have an easier time seeing these things in themselves.

We know more than we think we do, and we’re capable of more than we’ve ever accomplished, it’s just a matter of welcoming those opportunities that are out of your comfort zone. We need to have confidence in ourselves and in others, so we can ditch the faking, and start making.